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What The World Needs is Individuals.

  • Written by Michele McArdle
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As I enter my 21st year of teaching it gives me pause to reflect on education and my own approach to teaching.  I find myself rebelling against tradition and authority as I find it suffocating to the individual and the teacher I want to be. What I want is the right to be an individual teacher and for my students to be allowed to be individuals in a world that demands conformity. Where students and teachers alike are free thinkers, bravely experiment, speak out and try new things without fear of retribution.  At times it has been difficult for myself and my students to take that leap of faith because it is not what is expected, however, I am not one to give up easily.

I don’t want my students or myself to be marginalised and ignored because we do not conform because we all know that is morally wrong. Not only does it stifle creativity but drowns the individual, and destroys the soul. Without the Mandelas, the Aung San Suu Kyis’ of the world we would not be able to celebrate the people we are today. Granted, these are some extreme cases but they highlight my point that what the world needs are individuals, not robots hell bent on self- promotion.

In education I acknowledge that we need academic rigor but we also need spontaneity and expression in order to help form the whole person. As all teachers will acknowledge there is very little time to address the individual let alone have any spontaneity within the classroom as time is always at a premium and schools are driven by results.  But this doesn’t mean we have to continue down that path, we can break out of that mould. We just need some more movers and shakers who are willing to think and act outside the square.

Through my reflections I have revisited poets (W.H.Auden), philosophers (Nietzsche), writers (Virginia Woolf), musicians (Yo-Yo Ma) and companies (3M and Google) in order to make sense of where I am at with education. These people give me hope and inspiration that what I strive for is obtainable and that the individual does not need to be compromised in pursuing their dreams.  Lehrer reminds us all that it is important ‘to know when to release technique for something deeper, for that depth of emotion that no-one else can find.’ Like Google we may do well to have ‘crazy search ideas’ in our classrooms, which has me brimming with excitement at what my students may come up with. Where my students are given the benefit of horizontal interactions, where knowledge is shared across subject areas, where conceptual blending are encouraged and insight into the process are promoted. How glorious to be an individual!

In the classroom the individual does make mistakes and this brings to mind Ma’s words about his own performances which are just as pertinent to our classrooms; ‘I will make mistakes. And I welcome that first mistake because then I can shrug it off and keep smiling. Then I can get on with the performance and turn off that part of the mind that judges everything. I’m not thinking or worrying anymore. And it’s when I’m least conscious of what I am doing, when I’m lost in the emotion of what I am doing, that I’m performing at my best.’

So, upon my reflection I have come to the conclusion that I will hold onto and develop the individual. I will continue to source material and teaching strategies that not only meet the curriculum but also allow the individual to flourish. I will always step forward, be brave to experiment, speak out and try new things in order to be the person and teacher I wish to be.

Michele McArdle